Bloodgate – Solace in Mourning Review

Blood. Gate. BLOOD. GATE. BLOOD! GATE! If that isn’t a band name perfectly tuned for chanting at live shows, I don’t know what is. Yet in the online world, Cincinnati, Ohio’s Bloodgate, now two LPs into their career, is a virtually non-hyped entity. Perhaps a reformulation of their blackened thrash approach will help in that respect. While 2018’s Ambush and Destroy was a tantalizingly melodic slab of Skeletonwitch worship, Solace in Mourning, despite its more contemplative title, adds a heap of death metal to the mix and feels decidedly more aggressive and unhinged for it. While I’m not sure I personally prefer it over the debut, Solace in Mourning is undoubtedly the better record in terms of sheer energy and unpredictability.

Bloodgate manifests that unpredictability in multiple forms throughout Solace in Mourning, the most immediately evident being its wild songwriting pivots. While intro “2020” feels decidedly throwaway, the first proper cut, “Mirror of Flesh,” wastes little time in introducing whiplashing tempo changes which come to define the album’s lithe 25 minute runtime. Bloodgate’s second mode of unpredictability is unveiled two tracks later, as “Tombs of Mortal Decay” drops a weird-ass time signature change and explores progressive black metal territory. The sporadic prog-black leanings inform many of Solace in Mourning’s best moments, especially “Curse of the Wizard’s Staff,” whose oddball guitar lines could comfortably reside in an Old Nick record. Yet even outside of Bloodgate’s curveballs, the riffs remain sharp, often invoking Oxygen Destroyer’s brand of Teutonic inspired blackened/deathened thrash.

While never not enjoyable, Bloodgate’s Pollock-esque approach in constructing Solace in Mourning does leave it feeling scattershot and inconsistent. Some tracks, like the straightforward “Death On the Horizon,” feel decidedly boilerplate and free of the surprises and personality that define much of the record. These tracks – and, really, the album as a whole – would have been much more charming if they had retained the uplifting melodic character of Bloodgate’s debut. As it stands, Solace in Mourning largely invokes grimness in a traditional black metal sense, which feels less novel by default. It’s frustrating, because Bloodgate clearly has the makings of greatness, if they could only consolidate their best elements into something cohesive.

As an unsigned effort, Solace in Mourning is unsurprisingly overly loud and unrefined, but the production is not without its charms. The guitars and vocals are mixed so as to sound uncomfortably abrasive (and not in the lo-fi black metal sense), but I really enjoy the natural snare tone and the maximalized bass presence. I would not be surprised at all to learn that Bloodgate opted to record live as a band, because I envision the band’s live performances sounding exactly like they do on the record: a little sloppy, yet deliciously unhinged. The sloppiness doesn’t inform the individual performances however, which are all expertly delivered. Zach Determan’s riffs are the main attraction of course, and while his performances are packed with energy and unexpected technicality, drummer Eric Bowers nearly steals the show at times. Pay close attention to all the details tucked inside the blastbeats of “Withering,” and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

There is a great record locked somewhere inside Bloodgate. I know there is, because both of their records thus far have excellent qualities, with this record in particular showcasing flashes of brilliance. Sadly, all of those elements have yet to converge in one place. If the melodic qualities of Bloodgate’s debut were woven into Solace in Mourning’s most novel instances of experimentation and surprise, it could result in an incredible record. Yet Solace in Mourning is still a ton of fun, and easy to recommend to blackened thrash fans, especially as its runtime requires such a low level of commitment.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 25th, 2022

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